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Game Preview: Playoff Prologue

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These teams will likely meet in round one; who will have home ice?

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins
BFFs <3 <3 <3
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into yesterday, Hockey Viz had Columbus with a 90% chance of playing Pittsburgh in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. SportsClub Stats has them at a 99.1% chance of meeting, giving the Jackets a 47% chance of home ice advantage in their first round series.

So yeah, this is a big game. It will go a long way towards settling the 2nd and 3rd seeds in the Metro division. The Penguins jumped the Jackets on Sunday with their win over the Hurricanes and the Jackets’ loss to the Capitals.

Both teams are limping towards the end of the regular season. Pittsburgh has been without the services of Evgeni Malkin, noted-Jacket-killer Kris Letang, Carl Hagelin, Olli Maata, and now Chris Kunitz.

Columbus lost stud rookie Zach Werenski to a hard hit from Alex Ovechkin on Sunday. Werenski is “day-to-day” according to Coach Tortorella. Another key rookie, Lukas Sedlak, is considered “week-to-week.” Ryan Murray continues his recovery from a broken hand.

Good news, however, as hope returns from the IR in the form of BJORKSTRAND. But that’s not all; he brings some additional help with him from Cleveland in former Monsters teammate Sonny Milano. Both will play, with Matt Calvert set to be scratched. (Every chart on this page from Hockey Viz shows why I’m OK with that) I am very excited to see what kind of energy and offensive skill these players bring to the lineup. The offense is in dire need of a spark. The power play has been similarly disappointing; BJORKSTRAND practiced with the first PP unit yesterday.

With Werenski out, both Markus Nutivaara and Scott Harrington will play. I hope Nutivaara gets more minutes. He has been quietly solid all season.

Lineups are what I WANT to see. No word yet as to what Torts plans. I won’t be surprised if he tries several different combinations tonight.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
Boone Jenner Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno Alexander Wennberg BJORKSTRAND
Scott Hartnell Sam Gagner Sonny Milano
Brandon Saad Lars Karlsson Josh Anderson
Markus Nutivaara Seth Jones
Jack Johnson David Savard
Kyle Quincey Scott Harrington
Sergei Bobrovsky
Joonas Korpisalo
Pittsburgh Penguins
Jake Guentzel Sidney Crosby Conor Sheary
Phil Kessel Nick Bonino Bryan Rust
Tom Kuhnhackl Matt Cullen Patric Hornqvist
Scott Wilson Carter Rowney Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin Ron Hainsey
Ian Cole Justin Schultz
Mark Streit Chad Ruhwedel
Matthew Murray
Marc-Andre Fleury